March 28, 2012

The New York Times International Weekly, an 8 to 12-page supplement inserted in newspapers around the world, published this correction earlier in the week:

A Lens column earlier this month about introverts and extroverts misquoted the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The correct quote is “Hell is other people,” not “Hell is other people at breakfast.”

The New York Times International Weekly corrects a mangled Sartre quote
The New York Times International Weekly corrects a mangled Sartre quote.

Though not available online, I received a photo of the print version of the correction from Taiwan-based journalist Dan Bloom. (The original, incorrect item is placed to the left of the correction.)

Bloom is the eagle-eyed reader who spotted the Sartre misquote last week and requested a correction. (Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon previously wrote about this quote, which has taken on a life of its own.)

Bloom has since written several articles and blog posts about how this misquote made it into circulation. Here’s him writing for The Wrap:

This is how things work in the Internet Age.

A witty writer in Boston sets up a fake quote from the late Jean-Paul Sartre back in 2003 in an article about introverts and extroverts that was published in the Atlantic Monthly online, and almost 10 years later the fake quote — “Hell is other people at breakfast” — is still going strong on blogs, emails and bonafide websites.

Very few people have bothered to check if the quote is correct, since the correct quote from Sartre’s famous play “No Exit” is actually, “Hell is other people.” In French, Sartre wrote it out as, “L’enfer, c’est les autres.”

The writer in question is Jonathan Rauch, who playfully altered the Sartre quote in a piece about introverts and extroverts. Bloom notes that the Rauch quote was reused in this recent Huffington Post blog post about personality types, which Bloom believes was consulted by the Times writer who used the incorrect quote in the paper.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Craig Silverman ( is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends…
Craig Silverman

More News

Back to News


Comments are closed.